Knights of the Old Republic #36
Prophet Motive Part 1
Story: John Jackson Miller
Art: Bong Dazo
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Dan Scott
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (06/06/2009)
During a regular trading session on Metellos 3, one of the Chev executives receives a visit from "Professor Gryphomarn". As the Chev, by the name of Cipiter, explains to the academic the nature of planetary rights auctions, a Calipsan mining ship arrives. Its captain, "Brackel," disputes the past sale of the planet Italbos as her companion is a native so the planet should not belong to anyone else. Professor Gryphomarn offers to advocate for the Captain and that the previous claims to Italbos should be voided so a new auction can be held. After the market closes early, Cipiter meets with his Chevin master Nunk Plaarvin who suspects the Professor is actually Marn Hierogryph who is trying to pull one of his infamous cons. Nunk sends Mongorrt and the security team to attack the professor, the captain and the Italbosi who turn out to be Gryph, Jarael and Rohlan. With the help of sentry droids the security officers almost capture the group, but another partner joins in just in time to save them.
Gryph and his group are up to their old tricks again, disguising themselves to try scamming money from rich people. I really love their dynamic, even though this time they have to start without Gryph's new equal partner, the ex-Jedi Zayne Carrick. At one point, Jarael mentions that Zayne has been gone for a month so this is at least the time that went by since last issue's climactic events. This time, their target is the moon Metellos 3 which has become rich due to the profits made in the Planetary Futures Exchange and the clientele and tourism that market brings with it. It has the feel of a mix between the busy stock exchange and an auction house where rich people bid on expensive valuables. What is being sold in this market are the various rights (mining, water, hyperspace access) to planets that have just been discovered, but not yet visited. I think this is a cool new concept and a great set-up for a story. The exposition about all this is given by one of the Chevs who seemingly run the market, a dude by the name Cipiter, to a visiting academic, Professor "Gryphomarn" from the University of Cadomai who specilizes in the law. Of course, I am using the quote marks because we all know that this is one of Gryph's many alter-egos.
That lecture and tour are interrupted by a rickety Calipsan mining ship which presence seems to worry Cipiter. The ship's presence is no coincidence, as this is all part of Gryph's ploy. The ship's captain soon joins the market crowd with an armored passenger. "Captain Brackel" (disguised Jarael) explains that her companion (disguised Rohlan) is from the planet Italbos and that his presence alone should prove that the planet is inhabited. Despite that, Italbos' rights were sold some time ago at this market without anyone checking if the planet had an intelligent species. After hearing that, the Professor offers to represent Brackel and the Italbosi during the new auction that would have to take place, since now the previous sale should have to be cancelled. While the group's actual purpose is not yet made clear, this seems like a good ploy since no one can verify if their claims are true or not since the planet is not yet explored. Either way, this unexpected visit prompts Cipiter and the Chevs to close the market in perparation for the new Italbos auction.
While the companions are waiting in their luxury suite, Cipiter reports to his master (even though he told Gryph he has none), the real brains behind the opration, the Chevin Nunk Plaarvin. Plaarvin is not too happy about the Italbos situation, and suspects "Gryphomarn" of being the infamous Marn Hyerogryph. The Chevin's guess is correct, and unfortunately Gryph's reputation puts him in trouble as Plaarvin sends his security goons to take the group by surprise. Jarael and Rohlan fight well, but they are overtaken by numbers especially when Kellenech Sentinel Droids burst through the floor (!) It's a good time for Gryph's business partner Zayne to show up with his handy lightsaber.
Miller creates a fascinating story as usual, with a lot of words but always keeping the reader's attention. As I mentioned before, the dynamic between the characters also works very well and at this point, most readers (including myself) will have become fond of this rag-tag business venture. The writer also usually includes nice references to the Star Wars universe. In this issue, even though it is not named yet, there is a cool reference to Bespin as one of the planets being sold (Tibanna gas giant, in the Anoat Sector...) There is also a lot of humor, in this issue especially in the form of Nunk Plaarvin who comes off as a bumbling lord who seems to be ridiculed even by his own slaves. And when things get serious, the action is there, so it's a mix of everything that makes a great Star Wars story.
I have to say I was less than impressed with Bongo's artwork. All the pages look way too busy with way too many details, especially the final fight scene where sometimes I didn't even know what was going on. All the non-Human and non-Arkadian characters are very random, making it seems like the artist is not familiar with the Star Wars universe. Amongs the hundreds of aliens depicted in the market place, only a few look familiar and even that seems to be by pure coincidence. I spotted a few Arcona, a Verpine, a Khil and a Mon Calamari but I'm not even sure the artist knew what they were. Even Gryph's features are all distorted making it hard to guess he's supposed to be a Snivvian. The Chevin is not as bad, but he looks very cartoonish. But when it comes to armor/clothing and starships, Bongo is a lot better. The coloring helps a little but even the great Mr. Atiyeh's talent can't seem to rescue this one. There is one scene on page 21 where a sentry droid crushes Gryph's head against a transparisteel viewport causing it to crack, but the effect looks very strange and inefective.
The very entertaining story keeps the attention away from the poor artwork, making it a a worthwhile read.
Rating: 7 / 10 Recommended